Legislators Must Now Share Authority During Pandemic

After a cowardly absence of nine months, the General Assembly reconvenes this week. Though legislators may not recognize it, the first question facing them is whether their new session is to be one of substance or merely a formality. For Governor Lamont has been ruling by emergency decree since the virus epidemic began in March, and with the approval of legislative leaders he has extended that power until Feb. 9. If the emergency is allowed to end then, what is essentially monarchy will end too, democratic government will resume, political responsibility will be widely shared, and legislators will have to

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Challenges Should Not Tear Us Apart

It’s a sad commentary on America that our greatest challenges – the pandemic, climate change, health, wealth and educational disparities, and racial injustice – not only fail to bring us together, but widen divisions. Both major parties have not only deepened those fissures, but given them orthodoxy. Now, democracy, once a serviceable impasse to candidates with dangerous ideas and disruptive impulses, no longer assures even semblances of progress. Sowing discontent, stoking hatred, and disregarding facts and science comprise a tactical lexicon for getting votes and undermining truth. And until reason and empathy “entangle” within our social consciousness, behaving in lockstep

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Looting By Parent Company Took Courant’s Home Away

Employees of Connecticut’s largest newspaper, the Hartford Courant, cleaned out their desks the other day as the newspaper left the building at 285 Broad St. where it had operated for 70 years. It was well reported that the newspaper will continue publishing as its employees work from home, as they have done since March; that the Springfield Republican will do the printing; and that the Courant doesn’t know if it will have an office again. But why the newspaper gave up its offices has not been well reported, and it is not just because of the virus epidemic. It’s also

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CT Examiner’s Top 10 Stories of 2020

Here’s a look at our top 10 stories by readership in 2020 Scientists Explain Bunker Found Washed up on the Connecticut Shoreline by Brendan Crowley School Reopenings Across Connecticut Ignore State Guidance, Raise Issues of Childcare by Julia Werth Bucking State Advice, and a Brookings Study, Connecticut School Districts Reopen on their Own Terms by Julia Werth and Emilia Otte Lamont Designates $2.5 Million to Rent Assistance for Undocumented Immigrants by Julia Werth Officers Say Toxic Environment Drives Departures from Old Saybrook Police by Emilia Otte Nursing Home Deaths in Old Saybrook Point to Deeper Policy and Care Concerns Across

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A Breath of Fresh Air

I decided at the end of 2019 to leave a job at a small town paper in Missouri and take a shot at freelancing. As COVID shutdowns quickly led to newsroom budget cuts, that plan unraveled. Then Gregory Stroud offered me a job reporting at the CT Examiner.  I jumped at the opportunity, and it may be the best decision I’ve made in 26 years. I’ve found the CT Examiner to be a breath of fresh air in the journalism industry – a small, growing operation that invests in local reporting, rather than a massive conglomerate that strips small papers

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How I Started Out in a Pandemic

I took my first reporting job in the middle of a global pandemic. I’m sure that this will define how I approach reporting for the rest of my life.  Coming onboard at the Examiner, I had the rare opportunity to write about an incredible variety of topics – housing, law enforcement, education, taxes, domestic violence, energy, politics, business and, of course, public health.  Essentially, what I got was a birds-eye view of the state of Connecticut. From that vantage point, it became easy to see how everything – especially this year – is interconnected.  Physics tells us that any object

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By Far the Most Important Lesson

Never begin reporting a story believing you know the ending. Throughout my seven years as a reporter, it is by far the most important lesson I have learned and one I often wish others would take to heart. Whether it is a routine municipal meeting, a new data set or a tip received, deciding the message before gathering all the facts and feelings from those involved will not yield a worthwhile, or precise, story. It will prevent you from asking the necessary follow up questions or being open to an alternative explanation. If you decide the message before you finish

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Journalism During a Pandemic

Questions and conversations are central to my job as a journalist. When I talk with community leaders, residents and business owners, I learn about key issues and underlying concerns. I read documents, articles, emails, municipal reports and spreadsheets. I also read body language, facial expressions and inflection. A question can arise from what is unsaid, unnoticed or out of the spotlight. Silence can serve as information as fully as words.  At CT Examiner, our motto is “Big Questions in Small Places.” Now, 10 months into the pandemic, I am asking a slightly different big question: How is the pandemic changing

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Let Local School Boards Make Sensible Decisions on Classroom Instruction

Earlier this month, just days before the first Connecticut health care workers were administered the just-approved coronavirus vaccine, a coalition of public school employee unions sent Governor Lamont a petition demanding that he close schools unless and until schools implement a set of COVID-19 safety protocols designed by Connecticut Education Association (CEA). The CEA-led union coalition demanded that the protocols be enforced by the state, not local authorities. They demanded that Lamont mandate full-pay and a no-layoff policy for all public school employees through the end of the school year. What a striking juxtaposition between the selfless dedication of health

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A 21st Century Moonshot

Plastic bags and packaging were introduced in the 1950s. Transparent cellophane wrappers enabled shoppers to rummage through pre-cut portions of food, already adulterated with waxes and dyes, less appealing sides of which could be hidden by grocers. For durable goods, plastic packaging posed obstacles to light-fingered customers, and giving illusions of grandeur to the smallest of purchases. From perspectives of profit, versatility and strength, plastics have been a lightweight, malleable, nonperishable boon. Contributing mightily to our glut for oil, they’ve been a cheap structural material in everything from toys to automobiles, aircraft components to medical equipment. In the classic 1960s

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Equality in School Spending is Easy — And Would Fail Too

When the first legal challenge to Connecticut’s system of financing local education was filed 45 years ago, the complaint was inequality — that since school finance was based on the local property tax, rich towns spent much more per pupil than poor towns and had more successful schools. This correlation was misconstrued to mean that per-pupil spending determined student performance. The complaint of inequality remains the big complaint today, and during a recent internet conference call a group of ministers from Connecticut’s cities badgered Governor Lamont about it. But the ministers and others clamoring for equality in per-pupil spending don’t

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Clarification on the Tantummaheag Road Landing

I read your article regarding the landing and as always found it well written, factually accurate and unbiased with all opinions reported. As mentioned at the Harbor Management Commission meeting, I planned to meet with Mr. Frampton, however, due to both our travel schedules, it was not possible to meet in person so we had a lengthy telephone conversation on Dec. 9, the day after the Harbor Management Commission meeting. During that conversation, I made it clear that the boulders on Town property must be moved and the Town will do so if he does not. The issue of the

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East Lyme First Selectman Mark Nickerson must Resign Immediately.

There are many signs around town, many are simply ignored (speed  limits), but one sign in particular has gained a lot of attention. Maybe a lot more than it deserves.  It is the sign on Boston Post Road placed by Mr. Rando, the subject of a lot of talk in town, mainly due to the First Selectman of East Lyme Facebook attack against him.  Love it or hate it,  this is not the first sign Mr. Rando has placed by the roadside and probably won’t be the last. He is a small business owner and with each sign takes a risk  to be

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$288 Billion Solution to America’s Problems

American leadership has failed Americans. American leadership has failed the entire globe. The strongest, best country in the world has, time and time again, failed to strategically overcome the coronavirus that has plagued the country. Let’s look at the numbers: Over $4 trillion dollars is now being allocated to coronavirus relief. Much of these dollars are going towards people and organizations that desperately need and want them, while at the same time, much is going to frivolous places that do not even help our country overcome such a tragic, terrible issue. What if we could learn from other countries? What if

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There Is No Free Pony

Early in our parenting my wife and I taught our daughter about the difference between wanting something and needing something.  She might want a pony but did she need one?  And most importantly, what was she willing to do to get that pony.  “Ponies aren’t free,” we would remind her. The same things are true for transportation, our climate and our health. A recent poll was released, commissioned by the Transportation Climate Initiative.  The name explains their mission: saving our climate by encouraging increased use of mass transit, electric vehicles and less use of fossil fuels. We all know that

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Snow Obsession isn’t News; More Taxes Aren’t ‘Reform’

Government in Connecticut is often mediocre but it usually excels at clearing the roads during and after a snowstorm like last week’s. Maybe this is because while some failures are easily overlooked or concealed, there is no hiding impassable roads. They risk political consequences. So people in Connecticut can have confidence that even the heaviest accumulations will not cause catastrophe — that their road crews will defeat the snow before anyone starves to death. Then what explains the obsession of the state’s news organizations, especially the television stations, with celebrating the obvious when there is going to be snow? First

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Make ‘99% Herd Immunity’ Our Battle Cry

Disasters are usually avoidable. Weeks before Mount Vesuvius buried Pompeii and Herculaneum (A.D. 79), Bay of Naples sea floors boiled and bubbled, streams and wells near the volcano went dry, and rats and other animals left both cities in droves. In 1985, a year before it exploded, engineers at Morton Thiokol warned about Challenger’s O-rings. At temps below freezing, they insisted, O-ring rubber could stiffen and rocket booster sections might not seal. When Bob Eberling, Roger Boisjoly, Arnold Thompson and Allan McDonald asked to delay the space shuttle’s launch for warmer weather, they were overruled. Bending to press and political

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Did Journalist Report Crimes?

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This reporter claims she was given information about illegal activity on behalf of cops in Old Saybrook. Did she report these crimes to the state’s attorney as she should? Did either of the ex-cops sign an affidavit or contact the state’s attorney as they would legally be required to? Does this report realize she published confessions from those 2 cops where they admitted they did something illegal? Crazy that all this was published without any fact-checking Jim BartellOld Saybrook

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50 Years of the EPA

Congratulations to EPA on 50 years On December 2, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) celebrated its 50th anniversary. Created by President Nixon in 1970, EPA consolidated the environmental responsibilities of the federal government into one agency to more effectively address environmental concerns. Over the past 50 years, the agency has set a worldwide standard for using scientific consensus as the foundation for regulations.  As the head of the trade association representing the pesticide industry, I know all too well how complex and divisive regulatory decisions can be, yet I cannot overstate the importance of the work that EPA scientists have done

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Clean Water and Affordable Housing — a Problem and a Fix

It’s not zoning, or angry crowds, it’s sewers that may put the kibosh on a plan for 67 units of affordable housing in Old Lyme – part of a 224-unit 11-building residential complex proposed for a 20-acre site on Hatchetts Hill Road. The fact is, it’s nearly impossible to build dense housing of any sort without sewers. You might recall, the proposed Hope Partnership development on Neck Road in Old Lyme would have provided just 37 units of affordable housing on septic and still required a loophole and a subdivide to get around Connecticut’s stringent environmental laws. But here’s the

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State’s Tax, School Policies Produce 40 Years of Failure

Now that the Democratic majorities in the General Assembly are increasing as a result of last month’s election, visions of sugarplums dance again in the heads of those who think that “property tax reform” and spending more on municipal schools can save Connecticut’s cities and their poor students. It’s a reminder of the popular definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Of course that could double as the definition of persistence — persistence being, as Coolidge said, the prerequisite for problem solving. But even for the persistent there comes a time to

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Just in Time

Notice anything missing on your store shelves?  Maybe paper products or your favorite canned soup?  Given that the pandemic has been raging for over nine months, why aren’t the shelves full again?  Why isn’t the stuff we want “getting there”? Well one of the reasons is because a Japanese engineer visited an American supermarket in the 1950’s and noticed something he thought was wrong… and we’re still paying for his astute observations. It was Taiichi Ohno, industrial engineer at Toyota, who noticed the American stores had weeks of inventory in a back room, waiting for customers purchases to allow quick

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American Consumers Deserve ‘Best Price’ for Prescription Drugs

President Trump finalized a “most-favored-nation (MFN),” or “best-price,” prescription drug pricing rule on Nov. 20. The goal of the MFN concept is to deliver fair prices to Americans without diminishing drug company profits that fund the all-important research and development that leads to life-saving new drugs. While there is controversy as to whether the final rule genuinely implements the concept, the MFN approach should be followed. Opponents of the rule should improve it, not oppose it. The MFN best-price concept mandates the same price for Americans and wealthy Europeans, who have been paying about one-third of what Americans pay. The MFN

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A Rational Middle Ground For Today’s Global Crises

In America’s Coming-of-Age (1915) Van Wyck Brooks famously divided American culture into “high-” and “low-brow.” He imagined, however, a rational middle ground, an organic common sense which combined the passion and practicality of the low with the intelligence and foresight of the high. In my lifetime, the closest we’ve come to that ideal was the environmental movement of the 1960s. It combined self-preservation with realistic views that humans and other elements of the biosphere are roughly equivalent; that living and nonliving members comprise a single, moral, ecological community. So polarized are we now between intellectual and tribal extremes a cultural

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Connecticut’s Big Problem Isn’t Higher But Lower Ed

As was inscribed on the pedestal of the statue of college founder Emil Faber in the movie “Animal House,” “Knowledge is good.” But knowledge can be overpriced, as the growing clamor about college student loan forgiveness soon may demonstrate. President-elect Joe Biden and Democrats in the new Congress will propose various forms of forgiveness, and this will have the support of Connecticut’s congressional delegation, all Democrats. Student loan debt is huge, estimated at $1.6 trillion, and five Connecticut colleges were cited last week by the U.S. Education Department for leaving the parents of their students with especially high debt. There

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Mail-order Drugs Aren’t Always what they Seem

During these Covid times we’re all looking for convenience and value for money as we’re told to stay at home and avoid spreading or catching Covid-19 If you’re one of the millions of Americans that regularly take prescription medications not only do you know they seem to be getting more expensive each year, but you also have to get your refills and that can be a headache if your pharmacy is miles away or maybe you’re without transport or immobile. So, how wonderful when you see these companies on the Internet that can send your drugs through the mail and

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With Journalism Faltering, Courant Prepares for Sale

America’s oldest continuously published newspaper is now the country’s newest paper without an office of its own. The Hartford Courant announced last week that it is terminating its lease on the building it has occupied for 70 years just across Broad Street from the state Capitol, the building from which the paper once dominated the news of state government and all Connecticut. The Courant’s employees will keep working from home, as many journalists have been doing during the virus epidemic. The Courant already had arranged to shutter its press and have its printing done by the Springfield Republican in Massachusetts,

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White Privilege is No Rapunzel

Like fossils of dinosaur tracks in ancient riverbeds the first Gilded Age and Victorian era left lingering imprints. White opulence, once hidden at English manors, Rockefeller’s Kykuit or Hearst’s “Xanadu,” became overt consumption of goods, in higher quantity or greater expense than practical, to display social status. Thorstein Veblen described such behavior as “conspicuous consumption” in The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899). Expensive goods not only provided “serviceability,” but “honorific” value as well, the kind of outward display of wealth formerly reserved for aristocrats, nobility and religious leaders, virtually all white. Once corporatism, capitalism and oligarchy morphed into parasitism,

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State Just Has to Tough it Out and Empty Trains Won’t Help

While Governor Lamont remarked the other day that state government doesn’t have enough money to rescue every business suffering from the virus epidemic and the curtailment of commerce, most people think the federal government has infinite money and can and should make everyone whole. Sharing that view, Connecticut U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal this week went to the railroad station in West Haven to join Catherine Rinaldi, president of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, in calling for an emergency $12 billion federal appropriation for the MTA, which runs the Metro-North commuter railroad line from New Haven to New York City. Metro-North has

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Epidemic Ideas Miss Target; UConn Evades on Race

Again last week most of the coronavirus-related deaths in Connecticut — 70 percent — occurred in nursing homes. What was the policy response? The teacher unions demanded that all schools terminate in-person classes and convert to “remote learning,” which for many students– those who need schools most — means no learning, and which for most other students means much less learning. And New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker called for the state to retreat to stricter closure of commerce. These responses were plainly irrelevant to what has always been the epidemic’s primary threat — to the frail elderly and the chronically

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